Dexter "The Dark... Whatever" Review: A Family Affair

By Cory Barker

Dec 03, 2012

Dexter S7E10: “The Dark... Whatever”

This season of Dexter has accomplished a lot of things, but what I think I’ve liked best about it is how the show has been reflexive about some of the long-standing plot points and formulas. The most obvious of these is letting Deb in on Dexter’s secret and all the important conversations that have come from that, but the show has also interrogated or subverted other prevalent tropes related to its villains and Dexter’s relationship with his family. While the show probably should have addressed these things a little earlier than year seven, it's effectively destabilized a lot of the familiar rhythms.

“The Dark... Whatever” thankfully continued this trend by exploring what is really one of the dumbest things in Dexter’s DNA: The Dark Passenger. For far too long, the show has given its lead character carte blanche to kill a significant number of people under the guise of ultimately empty qualifiers like “The Code” and “The Dark Passenger.” Yet, I can live with The Code because the show has done a decent job of both explaining it and deconstructing it from time to time. The Dark Passenger, though? It’s just dumb. Always has been. It exists solely to allow Dexter to kill and then remove most of the responsibility; the Passenger strips our title character of agency and thus real consequences for most of his murders.

Therefore, no one was more excited than yours truly when Hannah called Dexter out for falling back on The Dark Passenger when in reality, he should just admit that he likes to kill (and more or less uses The Code to justify it). Even better was Harry’s incredulous reaction to Dexter’s assertion that it was his father who told him about the Passenger (it's tough to interpret those Dex-Harry scenes sometimes, but I guess in this instance we can assume that Harry’s confusion over the Passenger’s origins meant that Dexter knew all along that it was just something he made up, right?). As Hannah noted, the Passenger is, indeed, bullshit. While there is certainly something inside of Dexter that takes over when he decides to kill, that thing is not an external force. It is, as Hannah suggested, just him. He wants to kill. He likes to kill. He chooses to kill. There’s obviously something wrong with that in the strictest moral sense, but in this show’s world, it’s more progressive for Dexter to actually have to face the fact that he kills because that’s who he is.

I think it’s telling that Dexter had this conversation with both Hannah and Harry (/himself), because they're the two people who understand him, especially this side of him, the best. The show has done a fine job of confirming that Hannah is a murderer, but is also halfway normal (well, until this episode maybe) because she doesn’t hide from who she is. Much of Dexter’s story throughout the show’s lifespan has been about the tension between normalcy and his kills, and quite often he chooses his kills and the show lets him get away without much consequence. But Hannah is presenting to him an example of what can happen when you embrace the killer inside without, I guess, letting it totally subsume you. And arguably, that has been Dexter’s problem for far too long. By putting the onus on The Dark Passenger, Dexter can let his murderous side take hold and then suddenly, he isn’t responsible for what happens.

Giving the character this out makes some sense, if only because the show always wanted him to be sympathetic and cool in the basic-cable antihero kind of way. But over time, Dexter became a little too cuddly. If facing The Dark Passenger and realizing that it's total crap helps push both Dexter the character and Dexter the show to a place where there aren’t all these qualifiers and cop-outs, there’s a chance this could get even more interesting.

The big question, of course, is whether or not Dexter is going to buy into it. In this episode at least, he realized that he doesn’t really need The Passenger or The Code to make a kill when he managed to stop his urges from taking out the idiot who'd been burning people alive (and who was not, somewhat surprisingly, the creepy fire official), only to let them manifest with Hannah’s dirt-bag father. The Phantom definitely fit The Code and in this show’s moral universe, deserved to die, whereas Hannah’s father (played by the always-tremendous Jim Beaver), while certainly a manipulative, evil prick, didn’t actually kill anyone. He was just a scumbag. But because Dexter promised Deb he would stop cherry-picking Miami PD cases and because Hannah’s father threatened Hannah and her freedom, Dexter had a choice to make. Instead of following The Code or letting The Passenger take over, Dexter just did what he wanted, and frankly, what benefited him. He let fire-starter go to show Deb that she could trust him and he disposed of Hannah’s father because it, theoretically, protects her.

This choice makes Dexter seem less superficially “good,” but we are way past that point now, anyway. He seems more at ease with this sort of decision-making, which could just be a byproduct of his feelings for Hannah (L-word alert!) and could definitely cause problems in the future. Nevertheless, for now, I appreciate that the show finally recognized that The Dark Passenger needed to go.

Another big thing that this episode helped crystallize for me is how quickly this season is burning through story. One of my biggest issues with Dexter over the years has been how slowly the show's stories unspool, especially once it's very clear what was going to happen at every big turning point anyway. Last season was the epitome of this problem, when almost everyone in the audience figured out that Professor Gellar was not real in like Episode 3 and the show played it for a major surprise around two months later.

This season, however, has been very quickly and very successfully paced. Many of us were surprised when Viktor passed last week and just when it seemed like Hannah’s father was going to be a multi-episode problem, he was dispatched of quite hastily as well. Where that leaves us is both unclear and exciting. It's weird to not know exactly where the last two episodes of a Dexter season are going. Deb is still coming after Hannah, despite everything that she and Dexter have discussed in recent weeks, so that is definitely our primary thread. But LaGuerta’s 100-week search for the true identity of the Bay Harbor Butcher is starting to progress at just the right time as well. Thus, it looks like Dexter might have to make some pretty tough decisions to protect his past and his future, and with The Dark Passenger finally out of the picture, it’s very possible that those decisions won’t end up being the correct ones.


– Last week I suggested that maybe George and the Brotherhood might come after or end up in Dexter’s orbit somehow, but that’s not going to happen because Quinn up and shot George and then manipulated the scene to make it look like self-defense. Watching that scene unfold, with Batista stupidly and clumsily trying to make his way back to George’s office while Quinn had Nadia shoot him in the arm, was edited well enough, but it was simply so stupid I could barely watch it. The best part is that Batista knew Quinn was lying, but apparently chose to ignore it because dammit, he still had all those health code violations to fix at the restaurant.

– Though I like that LaGuerta and Matthews’ Bay Harbor Butcher search is actually going somewhere, their first exchange here had so much horrible exposition in it that I could also barely stand it. The point is, as always, I struggle to get through any scenes on this show that don’t involve the Morgans or Jamie in a bathing suit.

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  • TeddyBearZA Dec 06, 2012

    Wondre if Sam & Dean know about Bobby's daughter?

  • efonsecajr Staff Dec 05, 2012

    I choose love.

  • damnfo0l Dec 05, 2012

    I love that they were looking for a Bobby and thn Bobby from Supernatural turns up.

  • abdulay31 Dec 05, 2012

    To me Dexter is depressed and distracted at times which makes him make faults but to abandon The Code just for someone is just out of order and the reality that Dexter is not in control as before, as it is the only thing that in a way justifies his killing and without it Dexter is just another killer. Great episode and hoping for more drama between Hannah and Deb as it is the only remaining puzzle to be solved this season with the exception of Laguerta finally getting offed in a horrible way.

  • emmiegirl Dec 05, 2012

    I agree with @DavidJackson8 and @bicelis comments. My thinking about the Dark Passenger has also been along the same lines they mentioned. When Dexter dialogued about the Dark Passenger it typically reminded me of the way addicts use terms like "monkey" ("monkey on my back") to refer to their urges to use. I always thought of Dexter's usage of the Dark Passenger as his way of compartmentalizing that portion of his life, the urges, the methodology and his actions, from the other areas of his life, internal and external, a way to create a barrier to any possible internal conflicts he might have with the choices he makes. I've never seen it as, nor do I believe the writers wished it to be seen as, an alter ego. This was reinforced for me by the fact that unlike the voice in his head he attributes to Harry, there has never been any type of personification of the Dark Passenger revealed to the audience, no face or voice that whispers to him, just his claims of an ever increasing desperate urge to achieve that brief moment of peace he finds in killing someone bad. I'm not entirely certain that for Dexter the killing is a "want" rather than a "need" however; I do think it very much is a compulsion for him. I think what was truly revelatory about Hannah's debunking of the DP was Dexter questioning the continued necessity of this mental contrivance and ultimately deciding to accept this aspect of his own nature. He may or may not have a compulsion to kill, but regardless of what drives him to do, he enjoys it, he likes to kill. This also fits with the ongoing theme of Dexter's personal growth; he isn't the same robotic guy play acting at being human we were introduced to in S01, and accepting himself is as big a step in his growth as developing relationships.

    I also do not think Dexter has entirely abandoned the Code. While there have been a few deaths outside the Code, Dexter's victimology has essentially been consistently focused on killers who escape the justice of the courts. I do not recall in which season he killed the wrong person when his intel was bad and he had a crisis of faith in what he was doing, but I think he was genuinely distressed over the whole thing, just as I believe he was distressed about Doakes dying though he did not kill him. Perhaps Hannah's father did not strictly fit the Code, but in a sense, every person Dexter killed within the Code was a way of protecting possible future victims from the killers on his table, just as killing Hannah's father was Dexter's way of protecting her from any more of his abuse (which was just outrageously overdone here, but whatever).

    As easy as the Code and his adherence to it make it for me to provide huge allowances for Dexter's homicidal behaviour, perhaps it is not in fact so very noble at all. Perhaps the Code is simply his way of managing his addiction, the way an alcoholic might attempt to restrict themselves to a certain limit of drinks on certain days, or an addict only lets themselves get high on the weekends. But it may be as others have suggested here that in the final season Dexter is dealt some sort of emotional trauma that triggers complete abandonment of the Code, such as the conflict between Hannah and Deb, or the LaGuerta/Matthews investigation, which results in his complete devolution. I kind of hope not though.

  • bicelis Dec 05, 2012

    I'm ok with Dexter getting distressed and abandoning those two important aspects. But only if that later shows to be very very bad for him and in general so in the end he comes back to the roots - his need (the dark passenger) and his method of dealing with the need (the code).

  • Kicius Dec 04, 2012

    The last episode being titled "Suprise, MotherFucker" HAS to do with Doakes and the Bay Harbour Butcher case, since Doakes was always going around saying "-------, Mother fucker!" to Dexter, like when he told Dexter "I'm watching you, mother fucker". Ahh, I miss Doakes

  • bicelis Dec 04, 2012

    I don't know how I feel about Dexter without The Code and without the Dark Passanger. It's not like he's become evil and therefore unlikable for me. It's just that those two things are what make Dexter - Dexter. Without them, he's basically a killer who now has a love life and a difficult relationship with his sister.

    Dark Passenger is why he kills. The Code is who and how he kills for two reasons: to create at least something good out of that Dark Passenger and to not get caught. That's been established over the series.

    Like in the past I'd really like Dexter to first experiment getting out of his routine (like he did in this episode) fuck up and then come back to bite him in the ass real bad, so he would get back to his way, the original way.

  • kryptonkalel27 Dec 04, 2012

    One thing i think should be addressed is Debra's acting. Everyone who seems to comment on these later seasons of Dexter claim that she seems to be 'killing it' in the acting department but i seriously beg to differ. Deb's acting is and always has been her talking almost on the verge of tears anytime she needs to get dramatic. As a police officer and a god damn lieutenant it just looks unprofessional and damn embarrassing when you see her get so worked up. Like there is passionate cop and then there is Deb. Also a lot of her dramatic stuff is always drowned out by her almost crying to the point where sometimes you can't exactly catch what she is saying. She was fine from season 1-4 where the writing did most of the acting for her (Thank god!) Thought it should be said...

  • TrueTvWatcher Dec 04, 2012

    Another great episode with intriguing developments!

  • J_Pip Dec 04, 2012

    I love this series but I wasn't too keen on this particular episode. Hannah has understood Dexter so far, but for some reason in this episode she was acting like a teenage drama queen and didn't understand Dexter and his need/want he calls a dark passenger? Also, since when did arson investigators become expert psychological profilers as well?

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